Eru is a 62-year-old Māori man living in the South Island. A head injury from a road accident 12 years ago ended his working life as a shearer. He is a father and grandfather.

I started smoking when I was about 11 or 12. Mum and dad smoked, all my uncles, all the neighbours smoked and some of my friends in the high school were experimenting and learning to smoke. So, I thought “I’ll give it a try, too”.

Everybody smoked back then

Well, tailor-mades were a different story if we were in a pub or somewhere, or on a mission doing something, but it wasn’t what we’d smoke at work in forestry or on the farm or shearing or anything. Other people did, but it was tobacco. 

I can remember very clearly the old miners down the pubs, and they’d be talking with a rollie still in their mouth. It would have gone out, but they’d be talking away and they’d pull it out when they had a beer, put it back in even if it was out and carry on talking. Then, they’d give it a wipe if it was someone else’s time to have a yarn, and light it up. It was hard case. 

My wife smoked, though not as much as me. She would mainly smoke in social situations. And, all my kids smoke. They’re all adults now. I think they started just a little bit older than I was when I started. I think they started at college. I started at primary school. Things change.

Smoking now

I don’t really count how many I have. If I’m busy, I’m quite happy just to leave it alone. It’s when I’m doing nothing, or when I’m thinking about something, then I’ll have a cigarette. I smoke rolls. I’ve just bought a 30 gram. It’ll last me for 7 days ’till my next Support Living thing goes in the bank. I’ve got to make it last for 7 days. When I was shearing, I could smoke a 50 gram in 3 or 4 days, not a problem. But that was 12-plus years ago. It was big money, shearing. I’m not in that situation anymore so I really want to stop, but it’s not gonna happen.

I’m not smoking as much compared to what I smoked 10 years ago. Still, if I wake up in the night to go for a piss, I’ll have a few puffs of my bloody butt beside the bed before I go back to sleep. Tobacco’s not as good as what it used to be. 

Quit attempts?

I’ve only stopped smoking when I got crook a few times. It was on my mind to quit, for my health and, of course, because of my financial situation over the last 10 years.

The last 4 or 5 years, since what’s-her-bloody-handle put the price of tobacco up to try and get everybody to stop smoking, it’s become a financial struggle for everybody. But it’s just a hard habit to kick. I slowed down. But I could not stop.

Healthcare support to stop smoking

My doctor put me on mint-flavoured chewing gum plus the patches. I’ve been on this for a couple of years off and on. The patches knock me around a bit –gives me headaches. I’d be feeling like, shit, I’m on a trip here or something close to it. My tummy used to get upset too, but not bad. I could handle that.  It was just the bloody headaches. At first, I thought it was because of my head injury. But, no, I’m sure it wasn’t. 

I was quite keen not to have a bloody cigarette. It did put me off the thought of having one. But in the end, I’d just have a cigarette to get rid of the headache. I think it affects different people different ways.

I’ve got a new doctor. He’s more or less saying what my other doctor was saying. He said, “There’s a programme here if you’re interested.” I just shortcut it by saying, “I’ve tried it, I’ve slowed down, and I’ll get in touch with you if I am interested”. He didn’t ask me anymore. 

Tried homegrown or black market tobacco?

I tried homegrown once or twice, just friends gave me a puff of it or a handful now and again just for me to experiment with it. As far as I’m concerned, a cigarette’s a cigarette. 

I haven’t tried black market tobacco. I’d like to, of course everybody would like to. I do know that some moves around, it’s on the market. But I know more about getting the other stuff than what I do about getting tobacco illegally. Marijuana is easier to get. 

Tried vaping?

My neighbours do it. The old girls do it, the old fellas won’t. Some are quite happy with it. I don’t wanna get into that. I can’t see myself getting any satisfaction out of it. I could be wrong, of course, unless I try it.  

I think it’s got to be better for you. It would have to be, otherwise it wouldn’t be here now. But, I don’t know the chemical situation of it. 

Bans on where people can smoke…

I’m living in a council flat in a block of 1-person flats. I’m the youngest one here. I smoke inside and yes, I’m breaking the rules. Everybody here smokes and breaks the rules. 

The law banning smoking in the car while you’ve got children in there is a bit odd. Smoking in your kitchen, smoking in your own house with children, that’s a big no-no for all my children and my grandchildren. Everybody goes outside. And, that was happening way before the ban on smoking in the car when you’ve got the children inside. The parents would’ve worked it out at home, in the kitchen or in the house with the children there. They’re not going to then go, “Oh, let’s go for a drive and roll up a cigarette” when the car is smaller than your house and your kitchen. Common-sense from parents should’ve kicked in pretty quickly without them having to be told.  

Taxing tobacco

It goes up $2 or $3 dollars every 6 months, I thought. I don’t see what the government’s getting out of it. They’ve been getting too much out of it from day 1.  

Smokefree 2025

I heard a bit about that when the price of tobacco went up from what’s-her-bloody-handle. I thought, I don’t wanna listen anymore about it. Although I can understand it’s a good idea, it would be very hard for me.

Let’s not forget 100 years ago we watched black and white movies and Clark Gable and whoever, and these heroes had cigarettes in their mouth. It was just the way life was then. A few of the old people, they’re older than me, they still accept it as such. They’re not gonna change their ways in a hurry. 

For those of us from the 1940s, 1950s, when change was much slower – some of us who are still smoking, we’re having trouble getting to the stage they are at in 2021.

Some of the old ones over 70 or 75, they’re still having a cigarette – just 2 or 3 a day. They’ve probably got about 10 or 15 years left some of them, or even less than that, but they’re quite happy having a smoke and yeah... if the police come along and say ‘you’re not smoking anymore’, they’d be quite happy to just roll over and cark it.  

Legalising cannabis

I voted no because I don’t know what’d happen if cannabis was legalised. I wasn’t in a situation where I could understand.